What can climate activism learn from the great public health campaigns of the past?

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A new report (PDF) suggests efforts to change public behaviour to address climate change must learn from the great campaigns of previous decades on smoking, drink driving and HIV & AIDS.

The report, Climate and Rapid Behaviour Change: what do we know so far? reviews lessons from initiatives and campaigns for public health, disaster awareness and equality.

It is the first publication of the Rapid Transition Alliance, a global initiative set to launch later in 2018. The RTA aims to learn from past and current rapid changes to help achieve more sustainable futures, including action on low-carbon development.

A draft UN report leaked in June 2018 found that “rapid and far-reaching” changes would be needed to keep human-induced warming below 1.5C. Such changes are likely to involve shifts in behaviour relating to diets, transport and domestic life, as well as wider structural changes in large polluting industries or financial investments.

The challenge is to show how such rapid change can be done inclusively and with participation from those most affected by the transformations involved.

The report shows that past campaigns in public health have achieved significant changes in human behaviour and suggests that even faster changes may now be more possible than ever.

But as the report shows, such changes may also be led from below. Inclusive, grassroots movements have achieved great successes in changing cultures around food and gender equality, for example.

Download the report (PDF)

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